So you’re casually walking down the street, minding your own business and then…BOOM! You face plant the pavement in the most awkward way possible, trying to laugh it off to passers-by and pretend like your soul isn’t shrivelling up inside you…

Don’t worry – we’ve all been there.

In fact, if you feel the amount of time you spend on the floor is probably a little excessive, it may not be your fault, because according to research from Purdue University, humans are actually surprisingly bad at walking.

“The most commonly cited statistic is that one in three older adults falls each year due to age-related changes in balance, and in this four-month study, more than half of the college students fell during daily activities,” said Shirley Rietdyk, Professor of Health and Kinesiology at the Indiana-based university.

“The fall rate may be lower for older adults because they are more cautious due to the higher risk of serious, even fatal, injuries from falls,” Rietdyk notes. “These findings also highlight that walking on two legs is a challenging task that is mechanically unstable, even for young, healthy adults.”

Findings of the study, published in Human Movement Science, are based on data from 94 undergraduate students via a daily online survey regarding any trips, slips or falls they had experienced in the past 24-hours. The average age of the students was 19 years old, and the response rate was around 93 percent.

According to the data, each student experienced around one fall a week, but they tended to recover balance for most of these stumbles; 52 percent of participants fell at least once in the four-month period, while 21 percent fell multiple times. Results state that 16 percent of falls resulted in injury, and four percent of these required medical attention. The study also analysed other fall-related factors, such as substance abuse, which accounted for nine percent of falls.

One-third of all falls happened indoors.

“The most common multi-task associated with falling was talking to someone while walking,” Rietdyk adds. “Despite recent research showing an increase in injuries due to texting while walking, only three percent of falls resulted from texting while walking in this study.

“We have all heard the expression, ‘He can’t chew gum and walk at the same time,” the Professor concludes. “Similarly, we expect that talking while walking would be automatic. However, this multi-task is cognitively demanding, requiring the simultaneous management of language formulation, speech generation, terrain navigation and balance control.”

So there you have it –the ‘casual’ walk-and-talk is far more challenging than we thought. And perhaps multi-tasking isn’t our bag after all…

Image via Flickr.

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